The primary point that needs attention in regards to the Willie Gay suspension is that the NFL must clean up its stance on domestic violence, sexual assault, and every other off-field misconduct for which players are disciplined. The way in which the league assigns discipline from case to case is grossly inconsistent and, at best, morally questionable.
Willie Gay was arrested for misdemeanor criminal property damage in January, and on Monday, the NFL announced a four-game suspension for Gay in response. An angry, 6-foot-1, 240-pound man damaging property in an argument with a woman is a terrifying image—one rightly classified as domestic violence. It is deserving of disciplinary action. However, it could be perceived as minimal when weighed against other examples of personal misconduct cases throughout league history.
Gay’s punishment is over one-third of the disciplinary volume that Deshaun Watson received for 24 counts of sexual misconduct. Watson’s behavior was described in court as “more egregious than any [behavior] previously reviewed by the NFL.” Looking back further, Ray Rice was suspended only two games for punching his spouse in an elevator. And, closer to home, Kareem Hunt was suspended for eight games after he shoved and kicked a woman in 2018.
The timing of the NFL’s four-game suspension of Chiefs one backer Willie Gay has stirred up a ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Regardless of how his actions measure up against previous cases in the NFL, Gay was charged with a crime. That is a fact, plain and simple. What is not a fact, but is quickly circulating, is that the league decided upon the length of the suspension—four games—so that Gay will be absent in the Chiefs’ Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills.
The “NFL is rigged” community quickly gathered on Twitter to share their contempt for the league’s decision—more so the timeline which it follows.
After the hot start that Gay has had this year, I too am plenty upset that he will be missing the Buccaneers and Bills games, but let’s pump the brakes on the idea that the NFL is out to get the Chiefs. Frustration leads people into strange lines of thought, but there is only one point to argue in this instance, and that is the severity of Gay’s punishment. Not the timing of it.
His absence will be felt through a tough stretch of the Chiefs’ schedule, but the suspension is necessary in order for the league to continue making examples of off-field misconduct of all forms. There is simply no chance that the league is doing this in an effort to specifically handcuff the Chiefs against the Bills. The fire behind that idea needs to be extinguished before it gets out of hand.